At the beginning of your average Sunday liturgy, the president, various ministers, those who are altar assistants have to move from point A to point B. As a unified body, the ministers must navigate from the church vestibule, up the main aisle, and into the sanctuary. What is required is more than a mere movement from point A to B. Hopefully a procession will create the mood of the celebration. It should communicate "There is something special happening here." By its pace and symbols, a procession sets the stage for what is to come. It is the first formal liturgical action of the gathered assembly. It is a sort of "liturgical parade" comparable to the movement of dignitaries who walk in a solemn manner into the House of parliament for the opening of Parliament and the reading of the Speech from the Throne. It can communicate a reverential atmosphere and enable the assembly to enter into communal prayer of the Church more fully. But, oftentimes processsions are sheer chaos resembling more a fire drill than a solemn act of prayer. Last-minute preparations, hastily robed ministers, unclear instructions, ambiguous processional positions, hasty movement and vague sanctuary stations all add to produce the effect of a Disneyland parade rather than a dignified celebration of the Word of God and the Lord's Meal.
A procession is a subtle and very primitive form of religious experience. Theologically, it represents the incarnate Christ walking among his people. Liturgically, the procession, which is a highly visual medium, introduces our major symbols, the Cross and the Word of God, as well as the ministers. The use of music and song during the procession further help to qualify the tone of the celebration. It ritualizes the gathering of the people as an assembly as the active liturgical ministers move slowly through this gathering that is engaged in song.
A little dash of creativity can greatly enhance an entrance. A procession can even hint or announce the theme of the liturgy before any of the readings are proclaimed. For example, a processional banner with a symbolic representation of the seasonal theme or particular celebration can herald a liturgy of reconciliation, a sense of rejoicing, a beatitude, a commandment, or a scene from the Gospel. The moving banner along with the usual symbols of the cross and the Book of the Gospel or lectionary is carried reverently forward. Another minister can carry a symbol such as flask of oil to be used for anointing, an urn of ashes for the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the Paschal Candle, a bouquet of flowers, a thurible with burning incense - even some young children moving forward in a simple liturgical dance. Eugene Walsh, a noted liturgist, points out that the opening procession should always be a form of liturgical dance, with each person in the procession moving forward in a deliberate, dignified, reverential, prayerful manner.
Ministers of Communion, ushers, lectors, cantors, choir members, leaders of prayer and those who present the gifts on behalf of the community can also be incorporated into the entrance procession at various times. In this way, the procession acknowledges and makes visible the ministries of the total worshipping community.
[Source: St. Paul Roman Catholic Parish Bulletin, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, February, 2008]